The magical wonders of yeast

Don’t Keep it Bottled Up, Bean. December 23, 2011

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 4:55 am

Jimmy and David-David got snippy with each other bottling beer. But all in good fun. Well, it’s “like fun only different.” Check out the new BOTTLE TREE of DOOM! It’s modular, sanitizable, low-budget, and holds 50 bottles all at once.

Around this time James gets paranoid about germs and depressed because he thinks the beer may be ruined. Dave remains optimistic. Although he was a bit wary of the “soap” we used to sanitize the bottles (StarSan!). James has been told “Don’t fear the foam.” So we won’t. Next…we draw a cartoon of the Bean for our label!


Bean’s Pride Brown Ale December 10, 2011

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 4:29 am
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What ails you, Bean? Her tail got tweaked. In honor of the notorious Bean we brewed a fine brown ale, extra medium.

David bought the brewery a nice new propane burner, so we can brew in exotic locations (like camp)!

Well, we will someday.

This beer had a recipe that was actually written down and everything! Kate acted as Vicarious Brewer, communicating via skype from Lisbon. David couldn’t resist adding a “secret ingredient” but for the record it was edible. This was also the brewery’s first “all grain” batch. No more canned malt extract…the Bean would not approve! Then again, she likes to eat earwax, so maybe Bean’s not a good authority on this.

p.s. Bean is a cat.


Taste-testing! January 18, 2010

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 3:02 am
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Left to right: Stocking Stuffer Stout and 2 Ginger Beers

“You can’t buy this in a store!”  —James

I forgot to mention–way back in the beginning of December, when we made the Stocking Stuffer Stout, we also made two other small batches of beer (one half-gallon each):  A Ginger Beer and an Extra Wormwood Beer.  We were just fooling around, and didn’t write much of the recipe down.  The funny thing is, we all like the Ginger and Wormwood beers way better than the Stocking Stuffer Stout.  Too bad we only have a few bottles of the former, and a bajillion bottles of the latter!  The Ginger Beer contained water, brown sugar, grated fresh ginger, wormwood, and dry powdered malt extract.  The Extra Wormwood Beer was the same thing except we put in extra wormwood while it fermented.  So, dry-hopping with wormwood.  Worm-hopping?

"It burns!!!!!"


First, a few thoughts on the Ginger Beer:

“Ginger Binger! Silky smooth, but then effervesces.  The aftertaste goes forever.  It’s prickly.”  -Dave

“Refreshing, very pleasant.  Strong ginger taste.” -Kate

“It burns my mouth.  It’s great.”  -James


A few thoughts on the Stocking Stuffer Stout

“Aromas of Worcestershire Sauce.  Tastes sour.  I think we put too many

things in that. Not much fizz.” -Dave

Bean gets curious.

“Smells like wings, BBQ sauce, ketchup. May have been contaminated by bacteria.” -James

“Smells like a burning grill or charcoal.  A bit of moss.  Perhaps moss soaked in BBQ sauce?” -Kate

At the end of our taste-testing (1 bottle of Ginger Beer, 1 bottle of Extra-Wormwood, and 1 bottle of Stocking Stuffer Stout), there is still a full glass of Stocking Stuffer Stout sitting around.  No one wants to finish it…


Now for the Wormwood


We all agreed that the Wormwood Beer smelled sweet and flowery, and tasted both sweet and bitter.  This is the most bitter beer I have ever tasted, and it just gets more bitter as the aftertaste takes over your mouth.

It really makes your head spin–quite intoxicating.

atama ga fuwa fuwa!

In conclusion.  The Stocking Stuffer Stout is hard to drink.  Perhaps it will sit around for a year because no one wants it, and by then it will be tasting marvelous.  The Ginger Beer is refreshing and would be great on a hot summer day.  The Wormwood Beer is INSANE!!!!!!


Yarrow Beer = FAIL December 19, 2009

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 3:21 am
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There is no head on this beer. Suspect.

How sad.  Our first experiment with herbal beer making has completely failed.  The yarrow beer appeared to be fermenting nicely–the jar of beer became cloudy with active yeast, then gradually cleared as all the yeast sediment sank to the bottom and foam appeared on top.  It was a beautiful light color.  When we bottled it, we pretty much knew it was ruined–it was sour.  However, we bottled it anyway, added sugar, and waited for the beer to get carbonated inside our fancey growler from D’s Dogs.  With great apprehension, we tasted the beer the night we bottled the Stocking Stuffer Stout.  James describes it thus:  ‘The taste was despicable.  Vindictive.  Just a little like vinegar, and very sour.’  We couldn’t even make ourselves drink one glass of it.  Down the drain it went.  Sad story, no?  Luckily it was only a gallon.  Our hypothesis is that the gallon jar we used for fermentation was not fully clean.  Instead of sterilizing the jar with bleach, we decided to use a non-bleach cleaner, and we are skeptical of the results.  Previously, we had stored our kombucha in this same gallon jar.


Perhaps some of the sour taste can be attributed to the kombucha culture.

From here on out, we are reverting to the bleach cleaning method, and will be even more meticulous (even though we took great pains to

even pasturize our yarrow and cheesecloth).  Better luck next time, Pearson kids.


Stocking Stuffer Stout November 20, 2009

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 5:52 am
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Kate sings the yeasties a song of encouragement after pitching the yeast

“It has all the things you would expect in a Christmas treat:  Cinnamon, ginger, wormwood….” —James

This year for Christmas, we are giving away bottles of the outrageous Stocking Stuffer Stout, concocted by James.  The recipe is roughly:

Juniper berries

6.6 lbs. dark malt extract

1 lb. roasted barley, for roastedness

1 lb. ‘black patent’ malt, for darkness

1 lb. oatmeal

a bit of cocoa powder

And for seasoning: Cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, fresh grated ginger, dried peppermint, orange zest, honey, and wormwood.

“Sounds gross,” Kate said, upon reading the above list. It may, in fact, actually be gross. It is likely to be gross. There’s no way of knowing for sure until we try it.

David adds the malt while James happily stirs the wort with a giant homemade paddle

Dave and James got things started by boiling up a dark and roasted-smelling wort.  The wort is basically beer that hasn’t been fermented–in our case, 3 gallons of water plus all the above grains and malt, boiling for around an hour. A taste-test of the wort brought on the following observation from David, “Smell this pack of cigarettes*.  Now smell the wort.  Which smells better?  (The cigarettes).”  The wort has a very smokey, roasted flavor, probably from the dark roasted barley.

We simmered the herbs and spices separately because we wanted them at a lower temperature, in case boiling would ruin their flavor.

The wormwood/juniper berry mixture simmers next to the giant pot of wort

Let’s talk for a moment about wormwood.  Did you know that you can substitute any manner of herbs in place of hops?  Well you can.  Wormwood is an extremely bitter herb.  James describes its taste as “oregano from hell.”  We only used 1/4 ounce in 5 gallons of beer, so we’re hoping that is a reasonable amount to impart a slight bitterness.  Wormwood is also stimulating to the nervous system.  We shall see what the effects of the wormwood are upon the completion of the fermentation process–as will you!  All I can say is that we each took a sip of the simmering herb mixture, and simultaneously made some really nasty faces.  “It burns!” David exclaimed (probably from the dried peppermint–that stuff can really clear your sinuses out).

When the wort was done boiling we turned the burners off, strained the herb/spice mixture, and added it to the wort.  We let the wort cool to 70° F in a flowing cold water bath in the sink.

There was much festive singing in the kitchen

Pitching the yeast

When the wort was finally cooled, we funneled all approximately 4 gallons into the clean and sterilized carboy.  The carboy was topped off to 5 gallons with some extra water.   Kate had the final honor of pitching the yeast.   When all was said and done, the combination of all of those strong flavors ended up smelling like….celery?  Yes, that was the smell of celery coming from the mouth of the carboy.  What on earth have we created???


Will the magical yeasties turn the strong smokey flavored wort + extremely bitter and burning herbal mixture into a drink with smooth, blended flavors?  What will the fermentation process do to the latent powers of the wormwood?  Will this be a drink we can actually give to people?  Time will tell.  Yeasties, do your thing!

*The cigarettes are not his, mom ♥


The Moe Lassie November 17, 2009

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 6:23 pm
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Moe lassie served with curried parsnip fries

A slow-Moe punch to the face compliments of a pint and a half of molasses and a clenched fistful of cloves.  Combined with 3 lbs English bitters malt extract (Coopers), 1 oz. Centennial hops, 1 oz. Cascade hops and 3 lbs brown sugar.  Aged to 2 months at the time of this picture and post. ABV: appx 7, David’s Extreme Rating (DER): 7.5


Yarrow Beer November 16, 2009

Filed under: beer — James Kate and Dave Pearson @ 2:43 am


According to Linneaus, it was used by the people of Lima in Dalecarnia, instead of hops, when they brewed for weddings:  “…so that the guests become crazy.”    . . .Yarrow is in no way innocent when mixed with ale. . . According to Linnaeus, it is significant that it was used to arrive at a state of complete and immediate intoxication. — from Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers.

The scientific name for Yarrow is Achillea millefolium or the thousand-leaved plant of Achilles–in reference to the herb’s ability to staunch bleeding.   Brewers in Scandanavia commonly used yarrow in place of hops–it is referred to as jordhumle, or ‘earth hop.’

As a guide, we used the recipe from Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers from the chapter “Psychotropic and Highly Inebriating Beers,”  but modified to make a small batch (1 gallon insead of the prescribed 6).


Mashing the barley

We purchased 2 lbs of malted barley from the Triangle Home Brewing Supply in the Strip District.  Interesting place.  [Here Jimmy breaks in to edit Kate’s nice post, so we don’t get to hear any more about the Triangle Home Brewing Supply shop, other than that it’s an ‘interesting place’.]


Actually James will take over now…the pictures illustrate my method of brewing from scratch for relatively unambitious people. Thus, here we are making only 0ne gallon of beer. ‘Mr. Triangle’ cracked our two pounds of barley for us with a nice little grain mill contraption rigged up to an electric drill. So the next step is to steep it in hot water. How hot, exactly? I don’t know. Apparently I’m not so good with the thermo-meter skills. Well, at the least I can say, ‘quite hot, yet by no means boiling.’ Anyway, after steeping these grains for an hour and a half, Kate and I extracted the resulting sweet brown juice, and sprinkled a little additional hot water through the grains for good measure.


Adding some honey

Next, the boil. The wort was boiled for nearly an hour, along with half of our dried yarrow (1/4 ounce out of 1/2 ounce total). And I couldn’t resist adding some F&D honey too. All this boiling seems over the top, but I think the purpose of it is to further break down the barley into something nice and digestible for the yeast. Also it concentrates the wort. In fact we were left with only about one quart! Not to worry: we simply add more water to make a scant gallon. So the result is strained into a sanitized jar complete with homemade air tube. Not very pretty. The reserved yarrow was tied in a cheesecloth pouch and suspended in the jar (I actually did pasteurize the pouch and yarrow first).jar

Here you can see our real Louis Pasteur setup. The idea is that air can escape from the big jar, but nothing can enter from the outside (like maybe ‘germs,’ or fruit flies, or really little mice…things like that). After the wort cooled to lukewarm, Kate had the honor of sprinkling in the yeast. Yay! What will happen next??